Oliver & District Arena to shut down ice operations Feb 28

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The Oliver & District Arena has had a relatively successful operating season considering the tough circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The arena opened in late Sept 2020 to use by minor sports organizations with new safety plans and protocols in place and gradually additional public services and user groups were scheduled with new restrictions. The arena has provided a safe environment for user groups and members of the public to be physically active over the winter months, even though facility usage and revenues have been consistently less than 50% of normal levels due to COVID-19.

On Dec 7, 2020, the PHO Mass Gatherings Order restricted adult groups from playing as well as competition and travel outside of the “home club” for minor sports groups, which drastically reduced the overall usage of the facility. Some user groups were allowed under the Order to continue booking ice at the arena, such as the South Okanagan Minor Hockey Association (SOMHA) and South Okanagan Figure Skating (SOFS) who are both operating training activities only (Phase 2 of return to sport) and School District 53 class visits from OES, TEN and OK Falls Elementary. Public programming this season has included registered public skating and “stick and puck” sessions, private lessons, and a rental option for families from the same household.

The most recent communication from Dr. Bonnie Henry on February 5th which indefinitely extended restrictions created further uncertainty regarding the return of Phase 3 activities (competition and travel) for minor sport before the end of March. 

Industry stakeholders such as viaSport BC, BC Hockey and provincial Recreation associations have not received any indication that adult sports will resume any time soon, and many BC municipal recreation operators are looking to transition earlier than usual from ice to dry-floor in order to shift the focus to outdoor sports and activities that are able to run under the current order and that continue to be favoured by the PHO over indoor sports and activities. 

It takes approximately 2 weeks to transition from ice to dry floor operations and by doing this earlier in 2021, staff could pivot the focus to preparing parks and other facilities for use and would provide a considerable reduction in expenses that would be better utilized to set up the next arena season.

At the regular meeting of the Oliver Parks and Recreation Society held on Tuesday February 16th, the Society supported staff recommendation that operations and services for the 2020/2021 season at the Oliver & District Arena cease as of February 28, 2021.

The Society wants to thank all of the staff who have worked hard to keep the arena open, safe and offer quality programming and extend our gratitude to the adult hockey user groups, SOMHA, SOFS, the Lion’s/Lioness Club of Oliver and members of the community for their support of the arena during the 2020/21 season.